Local health care experts say completing COVID vaccinations is important; CDC says millions are doing otherwise

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local public health experts say people are putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 by skipping the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This as the CDC says millions of Americans are not completing the vaccination process.

According to the CDC, data on vaccine completion status nationwide through April 9, among people with sufficient time to get second doses, nearly 8 percent missed their second dose.

Dr. Joe Kanter is State Health Officer within the Louisiana Department of Health and the chief COVID-19 adviser to Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“The second dose does two things for you, it adds to your level of protection, takes it from the middle of the road to extremely high, 95 percent and it adds durability which means it lasts longer in time, so it really is important to get that second shot,” said Kanter. Dr. Fred Lopez is an LSU Health New Orleans Infectious Diseases Specialist.

“With the two-dose regimens for Moderna and for Pfizer, they were studied using two doses. We know they’re very effective after the second dose; two weeks after the second dose 95 percent efficacy for either one of those two MessengerRNA vaccines,” said Lopez.

While specific data is not available yet on how many Louisiana residents have avoided getting the second dose of the two-dose vaccine, Dr. Kanter believes Louisiana is doing much better than many other states in that area.

“I think there are a handful of people that maybe don’t come back and get the second shot but by and large that’s an area that we do quite well in,” Kanter stated.

Lopez said he has heard people talk about being hesitant to get the second dose for fear of side effects.

“I recognize that some of it is the appointment, missing an appointment; some of it is the fear of the side effects of the second dose being a little bit more robust than after the first dose,” said Lopez.

But he warns people not to ignore the second shot and risk being infected with the virus.

“Those side effects are not nearly as detrimental as a COVID-19 infection and its possible consequences,” said Lopez.

He said there is a little leeway built into the timeframe for the second shot.

“So, even if you missed a dose and you’re worried, well I missed a dose I can’t get it later because it may no longer be as effective the CDC website does say that you can get it up to 42 days after the first dose, so don’t hesitate to get that dose if it’s because you missed an appointment,” Lopez stated.

The state is still working to overcome overall vaccination hesitancy.

“When we talk to people it’s not very frequent that we hear I’m never going to get it; what we hear more often is I’m not sure yet, I’m not there yet, I want to have conversations,” said Kanter.

He said LDH will work to go deeper into neighborhoods to educate people about the safety of the vaccines and get shots to individuals who want to be vaccinated.

Kanter said the state’s vaccine supply is outpacing public demand.

“Yeah, yeah we do, there’s no question about that. It’s a good problem to have, you know, we were so supply-limited for really the first 15 or 16 weeks of the vaccine rollout,” said Kanter.

And health care professionals stress that the original COVID-19 virus has not disappeared and there are the variants or mutations of the virus swirling around.

“It hasn’t gone away, we have the variants and what the second dose does, it makes your antibodies that much stronger, so that you’ll have a better chance of defending, particularly against the variants and as we see more variants circulating around there is a concern that if people have partial immunity, if they get one shot but not the second shot they might be more susceptible to those variants,” said Kanter.

“We just don’t know how long the immune response lasts after one dose and if it is less effective which we know it is after just one dose it would mean that you would be more likely to get infected,” Lopez stated.

Over the weekend, Louisiana resumed giving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after federal health agencies lifted a pause on the shot after six women developed rare blood clots.

On Friday, it was disclosed that a total of 15 people developed the clotting disorder after getting the J&J shot.

“It proved to be a very popular vaccine for us. I think that, that returns. I think we have to do some communication, but I think that returns, and the reason that I do is for anyone who had concerns about how serious the government is taking safety and transparency here this exercise of the pause should answer those questions,” said Kanter.

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